Thursday, 9 April 2009

Filling In The Blanks

Staring at a blank page.

My nemesis.

It began in high school, having to write using someone else's pattern. Every English teacher wanted something different and it took 3/4 of the semester to figure out exactly how to please them. Or maybe it was the history teacher who misunderstood me to the point I grew to hate him and flat-out refused to write. I'd rather take the F, I told him. I can't give you what you want from me. I don't know how.

But there was one teacher...really only one...who DID understand. Who listened to the valedictorian describe his recurrent nightmare of taking a test he knew nothing about. And she didn't laugh. Who nodded and let us get it all out when we told her what it was like to be smart, to have so much expectation piled upon us that we were literally paralyzed by the fear of failure. Of disappointing our parents. Of having our teachers write, one more time, "You're not living up to your potential." Of being teased or hated--or worse--because the other kids, and even some of the adults, had no idea what we were saying when we pulled out our mental thesauri to find the RIGHT word instead of, "Like, you know."

Some of us tried not to care. We turned it inward like the spikes of an iron maiden. Or we acted as different as they seemed to see us, trying to express ourselves in creative ways, with hair dyes or wild clothes, or acting out...because they certainly wouldn't listen to what we really wanted to say. They had their own problems. We knew they were struggling, too, but we still couldn't understand why they lashed out at us or ignored us or dismissed us as useless, ugly, complete enigmas. Were we really that strange? Maybe we were.

What we couldn't see then, and perhaps some of us still struggle with now, is that we allowed ourselves to see what they saw--and sometimes we believed them. Like the ghost image burnt into a computer screen left too long on a single page, even a single word could follow us for years. Become part of who we were. Are.

An extra finger getting in the way of my writing. After a while of trying to figure out how to get around it while I type, I give up.

That blank page again.

Or is it the finger that I'm staring at?

Wait. Why get around it at all? Make it type that exclamation point I can never seem to reach with my pinkie without looking. Make it hold my key ring while I dig for change with thumb and forefinger. Make it hold that strand that always gets away when I try to braid my daughter's hair. Even the worst thing said can become the best weapon against our own ennui, our stagnating fears, our nemeses. The art of embracing my past. Pitting my opponent against himself--or me against myself.

The blank page is just a blank page. I seem determined to fill it with nothing. I suppose it was me all along.

Mrs. Huenink said to write. Just write. Stop thinking, get it out, set it free. There will be time to operate on that hand, later. For now, it is a part of you. USE IT.

Not so blank any more, is it, Angela?

My God. Where did all of these words come from...?

1 comment:

  1. Angela, you make us (students) feel very inspired. Feeling very happy of having you as a professor. I just recently learned that my carpool had decided to drop his class, which means that I will be traveling by public transportation to school a total time of three hours in order to take a 50 min class :P But since it is your class, it is totally worth it. :)


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